Lancaster at Camden
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: LHS: 3-0; CHS: 1-2
Series record: CHS leads, 28-11
Last meeting: CHS, 40-3, in 2005
Radio-Internet: Kool 102.7 FM, www.kool1027.com (click on CHS logo), beginning with the pre-game show at 7 p.m.
TV: Tonight’s game will be re-broadcast on TruVista Cable Channel 39 next Wednesday at 8 p.m. and again on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 9 a.m.
The Skinny: While Hartsville has met Camden more times than any football opponent, no team on the Bulldogs’ schedule has had an earlier meeting with CHS. Lancaster and Camden played twice in 1899 with Camden winning both games … First-year Bruins’ head coach Bobby Collins played at Sumter High School before signing with and playing football at South Carolina State. He came to Lancaster after being the first head football coach in the history of Hough (N.C.) High School where his teams went 25-20 in his four years including an 11-2 mark in 2013 … Through the first three games of the CHS season, senior safety Nelson Semple leads the team with 32 tackles. He led the Dogs in stops last season, as well.
This is not the team which Camden head coach Jimmy Neal thought he would see when he agreed to play Lancaster last winter.
At that time, the Bruins were coming off a 2-9 season in the 4A ranks under head coach Bennie McMurray. Since then, McMurray resigned, LHS dropped down to the 3A ranks, Bobby Collins took over as the head coach and the Bruins are now off to a 3-0 start.
A quick look at the lineup which the Bruins are expected to start when they invade Zemp Stadium tonight shows a group of seniors who were hungry to win after having registered just eight varsity wins over the past three seasons which included 3-8 campaigns in both 2011 and 2012.
“They have 19 senior starters and they’re playing hard,” Neal said of the Bruins. “With a new head coach in Coach Collins and his staff, there is a lot of energy and excitement over there. Things have fallen in place nicely for them.”
While Lancaster was outdoing last fall’s win total with a 26-7 victory over AA power Central last Friday, Camden had a bye week and was left to lick it wounds on the heels of a 48-9 loss to Hartsville on Sept. 5. Following that contest, Neal said he and his staff would use the two weeks between games to go back over the fundamentals and other areas which may have not been stressed as much in a shortened pre-season due to playing a Week Zero game.
“We have great guys and they believed that we’re teaching them for the right reasons and teaching them the right stuff,” Neal said of the practice sessions between games. “It’s about us becoming better and our becoming better football players; beating blocks, squeezing blocks and making plays. It’s also about our offensive linemen making blocks, putting our face and hands in the right place and staying on our blocks.
“A lot of good things came from it, we hope.”
The break, Neal said, came at the perfect time for his squad which has lost consecutive games after opening the season with a win over Lugoff-Elgin. It was even more welcomed since it allowed Camden’s leading rusher, Kendrice Slater, an extra week to heal after having missed the Hartsville game with an ankle injury.
Slater, a 212-pound senior, leads the Bulldogs with 203 yards rushing in two games. With him out of the lineup against the Red Foxes, Camden was limited to 53 rushing yards while providing juniors Jamar Byrd and Ethan Harris more chances at carrying the load in the game as well as in practice.
“Obviously, it’s good to have Kendrice back. He’s our guy back there,” Neal said. “But those other guys have stepped up. Ethan and Jamar had good weeks and have made a lot of progress, too.”
As for the guests, the Bruins have outscored their first three foes --- Andrew Jackson, Richland Northeast and Central --- by a combined 88-18 count and their defense has not allowed more than one touchdown in a game.
Members of the Camden coaching staff took iin last week’s game at Pageland for themselves from the stands and came back impressed with what Lancaster is doing on both sides of the football.
“They have a really nice receiver in (the 6-foot-3, 182-pound) Jay Hood,” Neal said of the LHS offense. “The running back and quarterback are good players and, they are playing hard on defense. They have a good little combination going for them and, right now, things are falling in place for them and are happening sometimes for teams that we are going to have to battle through.”
Offensively, the Bruins will show Camden a little bit of everything. The guests operate out of the spread set with an empty backfield, times, with one back at other and, sometimes, lining up in the I formation. What the Bruins do is to line a defense across the field and find the gaps in a running game which includes tailback Dre Bailey and quarterback Keendarius Truesdale running the ball. “They give you a lot of different things to prepare for on offense,” Neal said.
When Camden’s offense has the football, the Dogs will see a 4-3 defensive scheme with the Bruins lining up their three linebackers in the box. Neal said his team has seen Lancaster bring a new defensive strategy into each game, thus far.
“They’ve, sort of, had three different game plans for AJ, Richland Northeast and Central,” Neal said. “Every team has different game plans which they tweak and, we know that. But against one team, they will run a lot of cover-two and cover-four (in the secondary), against another team, they have run a lot of cover-three and against another team, they run a lot of man-free out there.
“They really challenge you to make a lot of adjustments and pick things up.”
Neal said that his own team has enjoyed two solid weeks of practice in polishing things up on both sides of the football whole preparing for the Bruins.
“The guys came back and recommitted themselves and have done a great job of listening to the coaches and doing what we’ve asked them to do,” he said. They made progress and we’re excited about where we’re going. Right now, our team needs confidence in themselves because we believe in them. I think they are a good team, good players and I think that we can have a nice season.”